Obra Initiative Opens Opportunities for At-Risk Youth in the Americas

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 22, 2010

Obra is an initiative designed in response to President Obama's call at the 2009 Summit of the Americas for renewed and strengthened partnerships to promote greater opportunities among the region's youth. A two-year initiative launched earlier this month, Obra will ensure young people at risk have improved access to services and programs needed to prepare them for citizenship, work, and life by creating effective alliances among public, private, and civil society actors. John Dickson of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs describes:

"The launch did just take place for Obra in Kingston this week. There was a workshop for a couple of days and then the final day was really a ceremony to launch the activity. It was a launch that not only did the prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, attend but also representatives from three other countries where the three secretariats are. And those three secretariats are Kingston, Jamaica, Lima, Peru, and Guatemala City, in Guatemala. Each of those cities will be and will have a secretariat for their regions. And there are three private sector organizations in each of those countries that will be partnering with us, and partnering with other countries, to develop youth and employment activities, specifically targeted towards youth at risk. I should add too, that there was a buzz and an excitement and an energy at the Obra launch that I have not seen in many other activities, particularly of this nature."

He continued, "What is impressive about Obra is what it does hold for the future of foreign policy and foreign policy approach. And that is the notion of partnership. So, not only is it a partnership with other countries, specifically Peru, Jamaica, and Guatemala as secretariats, but they will partner with other countries, they will partner with private sector organizations, and with NGOs. And so the idea of not just building a project to take place in one country, but to partner with other organizations to build projects and to expand and build on existing projects and coordinate is what Obra is all about and what the approach of the United States is to the region: it is all about partnership now."

Read the full text of Mr. Dickson's remarks here.



Ana C.
April 22, 2010

Ana C. in Mexico writes:

Hurray! This is exactly the sort of initiative that State should be promoting -- among many others, obviously! As a former Fulbright Senior Scholar US-México I continue to be deeply aware of how much more we can do to promote connection, dismantle stereotypes, encourage multilateral connection among countries, cultures, NGOs, PEOPLE. Bravo to John Dickson for being there, and working hard to bring this particular initiative along. Good job, John!

United States
April 22, 2010

C.D. in U.S.A. writes:

We should do a better job of getting young people to see other countries while they're relatively young. These early experiences allow children to see life outside of their small fishbowl. Knowing that there is a big, wide world out there changes their provincial mindset and can help them stay focused on school. There are so many opportunities our children should be experiencing. I like the man who teaches cricket to kids in South Los Angeles. He had at risk kids sipping tea in fine British style. Imagine if those same kids could go to England or India for two weeks on a cricket tour. It doesn't cost a lot to accomodate a group of 15 kids on cots in a school gymnasium feeding them spaghetti dinner. Communities just need to loan and pool resources. if intelligently planned on a shoestring, these kids could have a wonderful time. Our kids are talented. they can show off their talents to English kids like singing Mariachi or the latest Hip Hop. In turn the English kids can show off their talents. Getting kids out experiencing the world is what we need to foster. These are the rich experiences we need to offer to all children throughout their academic year and summer. Get kids on the move, believing in their future and their attitudes will change.

This is how to empower and embrace the talents of our youth.

United States
April 23, 2010

Oyster C. in U.S.A. writes:

Another idea I had along the same lines is to start weekend college tours where schools around the country can host high school students once or twice a month where students sleepover on cots in the gymnasium, eat at college dorms, student unions and attend special weekend classes by professors on various subjects. If 9th-12th graders did these various fun weekends, college/university wouldn't seem like such a forboding place. At risk and other students might envision themselves going to college/university. This could be win-win as colleges could ensure a steady future stream of students depending on how fun they market their college experience. As universities have all of the facilities in place to host high school students, this would be a no brainer and could also be done relatively cheaply on a shoestring so that large numbers of disadvantaged children could take part.

These weekends would act as an easy introduction to college living and would ensure future placements of students. It's yet another way to get young people on the move through cultural/educational exchanges that would cost maybe $25.00 (mostly in food) costs.

Melanie S.
Wisconsin, USA
May 14, 2010

Melanie S. in Wisconsin writes:

This initiative is fantastic! I believe that problems can be solved within the populations of individual countries. With an emphasis on education and development for at-risk youth, there is a possibility for change. I have a lot of respect for this initiative. Because even if in only influences a few children, they will be able to play a more important role in society. Not only will they have more opportunities, but they will be able to influence politics and other issues in Latin America. Hopefully, this will lead to decreased violence, and promote cultural awareness across counties.

Kristen W.
Wisconsin, USA
May 17, 2010

Kristen W. in Wisconsin writes:

I'm very pleased to hear about this new initiative, I really feel that the U.S. is moving in the right direction with this new program. Inequality is such a pressing issue throughout Latin America and it's not just enough for the U.S. to focus on trade and democratization. If we are really to attempt to reduce poverty and inequality in Latin America, it is imperative that we work together with a broad network of organizations to achieve this, just as John Dickinson indicated in his interview. The increase in access to education will greatly help to create a more equal society while at the same time it will help to improve standards of living throughout Latin America. I think that this initiative shows great promise and I can't wait to see what the outcomes will be.


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